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Peter Jennings Dies at 67

Aired August 7, 2005 - 23:42   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Carol Lin at the CNN Center. We have learned and confirmed that illustrious anchor and journalist Peter Jennings has died tonight from lung cancer -- complications from lung cancer.
A remarkable journalist of his time, he was last seen in his ABC office at the end of May after announcing back in April that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

CNN's Tom Foreman has a profile of this extraordinary man.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Peter Jennings was born in Toronto, died in New York and lived for the world's news.

ANNOUNCER: This is "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings."

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening everyone. We're going to begin tonight with Saddam Hussein.

FOREMAN: For 32 years he was ABC's chief anchor.

JENNINGS: I've had -- I been to a lot of countries. I've covered a lot of great stories. I've been there for some of the great moments of the last 30 years. And I'm really lucky.

FOREMAN: Jennings was born to broadcast. His father, Charles, was an anchorman in Canada. At 9, Peter hosted a kid's show. In his teens, he took a radio job. And at 26, without ever completing high school, he joined ABC news.

JENNINGS: This is my first story outside Saigon, and I found out in a hurry.

This is Peter Jennings, ABC News.

FOREMAN: An early stint as anchor, pitted him against the legendary Walter Cronkite on CBS and the Huntley-Brinkley team on NBC. Jennings was too young, too inexperienced, too Canadian. He lost the position.

JENNINGS: And most Egyptians thoughts are not on war, they're on inflation.

FOREMAN: So, he began building his reporter's resume: the Middle East, on the Civil Rights trail in the south... JENNINGS: It started with a single man, and it ended with a crowd...

FOREMAN: the farm fields of Cuba.

JENNINGS: Never in the history of the revolution has sugar cane been as important as this year.

FOREMAN: the Olympic village in Munich.

JENNINGS: Two negotiators who went in just a few minutes ago have now come back out and are standing in a group.

FOREMAN: And when he rose to become ABC's chief anchor again after Tom Brokaw turned the job down, he was ready.

JENNINGS: Ginsberg is charged with anti-Soviet behavior. Suransky (ph) is charged, much more seriously, with treason.

FOREMAN: A demanding, often unpredictable boss, he was equally capable of relentlessly driving his staff or showing great compassion.

JENNINGS: How are you feeling these days?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; Well, I feel much better than I did.

FOREMAN: He always delighted in reporting, whether describing a makeshift lamp in Sarajevo...

JENNINGS: They fill it up almost to the very top with water and then put a thin film of oil on the top.

FOREMAN: ...or matching wits with world leaders.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I will go to my grave being at peace about it. And I don't really care what they think.

JENNINGS: Oh, yes you do, Bill.

CLINTON: They have no idea.

JENNINGS: Excuse me Mr. President. You ca -- I can feel it about the room...

CLINTON: No, no. I care -- I care. You don't want to go here Peter. You don't want to go here.

FOREMAN: But Peter Jennings was at his best when news was breaking.

JENNINGS: Because this was an attack on these -- on the United States. No question about it. Everybody said it all day, a declaration of war, an act of war against the United States.

FOREMAN: He loved hockey, history, culture, politics. JENNINGS: I think when you come home and participate in the democratic process, even vicariously as journalists do, I think it's extraordinarily moving.

FOREMAN: And he loved trying to understand what drives Americans to work, to play, to dream, to pray.

JENNINGS: I've been searching for America ever since I came to America 30-some-odd years ago. All journalists are.

FOREMAN: He wrote books, married four times, had children and became an American citizen himself, finally, two years ago. Peter Jennings at 66 promised to keep working throughout his illness. And he did, right up to the end of his own story.

JENNINGS: Have a good evening. I'm Peter Jennings. Thanks. And good night.


LIN: That was Peter Jennings' last appearance at "World News Tonight," April 5, when he personally announced that he had lung cancer. He shared with his viewers that he had been smoking in his 40s but had quit and had restarted smoking, once again, during 9/11.

An extraordinary journalist, he was a taskmaster and a perfectionist, ushering in an era of the superstar anchors. We had been waiting to hear confirmation from ABC which we did a short time ago when Charles Gibson came on the air and announced that Peter Jennings had passed.


CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Good evening. From ABC News headquarters in New York, I'm Charles Gibson. And it is with a profound sadness and true sorrow that I report to you Peter Jennings has died, tonight, of lung cancer.

Peter died in his apartment here in New York. With him was his wife Kayce, his children Elizabeth and Christopher, his sister Sarah as also there. His family just a moment ago released a statement and I want to quote it.

"Peter died with his family around him, without pain and in peace. He knew he had lived a good life" end quote.

Peter's family's strength, caring and love have sustained and comforted Peter over recent months. And with him as well were the prayers and the love and the great respect at all of us at ABC News who worked with Peter during his 41 years here.



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